Monday, April 16, 2007


It's what distinguishes between someone familar and a potential threat. I don't know about neurotypicals, but I'm guessing that they're similar in this regard. People are generally treated with coolness and mistrust unless I know them already or some kind of a bond is forged, usually based on some commonality. Our kids play together, or we share similar interests or ideals, or we have a dear friend in common, etc. If we don't know a person and there are no obvious signs or reasons why we might want to know them, we tend to be curt and briefly polite, the bare minimum necessary before moving on to our tasks of the day.

We establish and reinforce recognition of familiar people by social cues such as eye contact, small cues such as a nod of the head or a wink, a wave, or a verbal greeting. Then the recognition might be further reinforced (and usually is) by social niceties and ritual, such as "Hello, how are you doing?" and small talk. A social bond is reaffirmed and strengthened with each such interaction, provided of course that it is a positive experience for both parties.

-----OK, here is the problem-----

Some of us, specifically people on the autism spectrum, often don't recognize people by sight part or most of the time. It's called prosopagnosia. Recognition of people is based on other cues such as the surrounding environment (you know that it is the same girl who always makes your espressos, because you and she are in the same setting every morning), clothing (especially uniforms), voice, scent, hair color and style, body size and shape, or a combination of such factors. The face may be recognized in a secondary way, as an assist, but not the primary means of identification. What this means is that if I see a co-worker in an unfamiliar setting, say, a large store 50 miles away from here, I probably will not realize it is them. Most people treat those whom they do not recognize as potential enemies/threats, or as non-interesting. If a person I know goes on a major diet or changes their hair style or color drastically, the same thing can happen, even in the familiar setting. I do recognize faces to some degree, but I don't think it is very refined. Only the most beloved, utterly fmailiar, or truly fear-inspiring faces seem to imprint strongly on my brain. I can draw well, but if you were to ask me to draw a face of someone I love, I'd have trouble remembering what their face looked like. I would get the clothing, body posture, hair, facial hair, and basic details down, but fine details (shape and size of nose, shape and set of eyes, mouth, etc) would be absent or inaccurate.

In other words, people with prosopagnosia are very likely to either be friendly to everyone they see, or to treat everyone in a distant, hands off manner unless the other party initiates the recognition process (and then you feel pretty foolish and embarrassed). Recognition and the social bonds reinforced by it are likely to be impaired for people such as myself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Blooming: Tulip Turkestanica, native wild Violas, and the "assorted" Narcissus mix from Walmart. "Assorted mix" my ass....the package showed all sorts of different types of daffodils, and I'm not complaining too much, but they're all (so far, anyway) your basic golden trumpets. Ah least they actually bloomed. I think I'm going to discontinue buying those plastic bags of peta moss with a bulb or two in them. It seems that whatever garden supply vendor I get them from, they don't usually grow at all. I'd rather pay more and get soemthign reliable and true to name.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My life is absolutely meaningless. I'm a failure in every sense of the word. Why am I even here? I mean, since I was in grade school, I've been trying to convince myself that my life won't always be this sucky, that eventually, it'll get better....and folks, it just isn't happening. In fact, it could just be my perspective, but from here, it seems to be going downhill at a fairly steady rate.


I wish that I were like you people. I wish that my heart were colder and less attached, that I could forget people at the drop of a hat, that I could crush others beneath my feet like ants and not feel bad about it, only because they wer ein my way and it feels good. I don't want to be like that. I like ants.


The world is full of plastic people, they're/you're like a bunch of dumb Barbie and Ken dolls, distinguished primarily by clothing and accessories. Collect them all!


This world is just crammed full of aquaintances pretending to be friends, mocking me with their superficial representations of caring, of sentiment that doesn't exist. Platitudes, drivel, politeness. God, how I hate phony people.


Lastly, I've been thinking about this today: I don't know what it's like in other countries, but it seems to me that what I'll be describing (attempting to, anyway), could be an American phenomenon. There is a tendency to heroize people who defy the odds, and the tougher the odds are against them, the greater the admiration, if they succedd. This is a country built from people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and it's what we expect. America's built on the premise that class distinctions, limitations of all sorts, don't apply here, that these are rules meant to be broken.

Conversely, people (conservatives, actually) tend to despise and revile and even seek to punish those who, for whatever reason, can't beat the odds. Born without arms and legs? You'll be referred to a Reader's Digest article about some dude born limbless from birth who refuses to use a wheelchair and competes in the Olympics (the regular ones, not Special Olympics). You're on disability? What, you can't wiggle your body into a chair and conduct business over a speaker phone? Earn your keep, loser!!! It doesn't really matter whether the reason you're behind is physical, developmental, financial, or if you were raised by drug addicted parents on the wrong side of the tracks. Someone, somewhere has succeeded from similar circumstances, and so you're expected to as well. It also isn't enough to do better than you were before, you have to do as well or better than other successful people.

Think I'm exaggerating? Go ahead and troll some forum with a lot of republicans or anti-government sorts. Ask them how in the hell they expect disabled or disadvantaged people to survive without Social Security or various programs that presently sustain them. Get back to me please, and compare.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I'm scared. I was supposed to amount to something and I haven't. I don't want to spend my whole life doing things that I'm not naturally suited to, forcing myself to strain to adapt to their world....

And I can hear you, normals, out there saying that I can't expect the world to accomodate me teh way I am, that I'll have to conform, that everyone else has to bend and adjust to fit in, so what makes me think I'm any different? The thing is, I don't think you understand what that entails, the extent of what you're asking. It's akin to expecting a man to adopt the female role for 8.5 hours a day, to such an extreme degree, that he doesn't betray his masculine gender at all during that time. Would you ask any man to do that for 42.5 hours per week until he was in his 60s? (although at this rate, I'll probably die before I hit retirement age- they keep bumping it up). Most guys would get bruned out pretty quickly under those conditions, especially if 99% of available jobs demanded the exact same thing, that he conceal and mask his gender and dress, speak, and behave in every way as though he were perfectly female.

That's what it's like for me. I never asked to be born aspie, but it's a huge strain to try to be normal all of the time. It fucks up all the rest of my life to do so, but I suppose tha I really haven't a choice.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Maybe I'm not really good for anything.

Today was Orientation for the new job (even though I've been working there since the 19th). I had to sit for 8 hours (punctuated, to be fair, with regular breaks and such) in a fairly uncomfortable chair and absorb lots of information (much of which I had already learned, but there was enough new material that I couldn't just safely zone out, either). At first it was OK. But after several hours, the 16 year odl girl across from me began to fidget endlessly with her necklace. The sight of it swinging back and forth disrupted my vision.....I put a sheaf of paper between her necklace and my line of sight, and that helped, but I'm sure it looked strange. Then the lady next to me began to bounce her leg, and it made a sort of impatient sound and well as providing visual distraction. This was worse, because just beyond her was the teacher, and I couldn't easily block the vision of the neighboring gal and still see the teacher or the projector screen. Meanwhile, the seat just seemed to get more and more uncomfortable.

When I finally got home, my muscles were all tense and pinchy feeling, so I decided to go back to the health club and take a soak in the whirlpool. There will be about an hour of time left before they close once I get there. Soooo......I get to the club, get the locker key, and go to the ladie's locker room. A woman in scrubs is in a stretching position, the one meant to stretch the hip joints (as you might imagine, I am well acquainted with this exercise). I put the stuff I won't need in the locker, and as she coems out of the stretch I ask her if she also works for the hospital, etc. She talks to me, but something about me must be strange, because she eyes me in a.....uneasy but polite fashion and makes her getaway ASAP. I must have done something.....

But, I shrug this off and get into the shower. I already had my swimwear on under my street clothes: a swimsuit and a cute little pair of hawaiian print shorts which are slightly tight. They're made of some kind of water resistant, unstretchy material. I know that I should take the swimwear off when I shower, but the shower curtain isn't wide enough to cover the doorway without leaving a 2-3" gap. I'm scared someone will see my pudgy body. Worse, they might not know I'm in the shower. What if they draw the curtain back entirely before they see I'm there?? So I shower by degrees, which is to say that most of me gets washed, but in segments, before being hastily reclothed again. Upon entering the spa area, I noticed two other women in the pool, and I'm relieved very much when I see that they've left it and are doing a post-soak shower. I push the button to turn on the jets and happily immerse myself in the hot, HOT water. I've been cold for most of the day....oh, it is so nice. I soak in there for a long time and eventually get bored. I experiment with the various jets to try to massage my stiff neck (it can't be doen without submerging my nose, in other words, not really at all). I see that only 15 minutes have elapsed. Huh. I should have exercised a little bit first. I'm so fat, 135# now when I used to be 115#. I think about my friend and how I should coordinate our schedules somehow. I rarely exercise because I'm afraid and painfully self-conscious. What if my clothes are wrong? What kind of clothes do I need? What if I sweat and start to smell? What if I do things wrong or slowly or I look like a dork or a wimp (I am seriously out of shape). Maybe I should get into shape first somewhat and then come here as well. Maybe I should start bicycling again. My own bike is trashed. The front rim is all bent and skewed. If I could get it fixed, I could ride it again. I used to be so buff. I think about when I rode some 14, 15 miles or more a day with the kids in a trailer behind me. The thing is, I just don't have the time for that now. I think for a while about ways I could schedule time for riding my bike and which roads would be good.

I process all this for a while, and then the jets stop of their own accord, and I realize that I need to pee. The restroom is the only real choice, but I'm terrified of running into someone. In the water, under all that foam, it doesn't matter. Out of the water.....I don't want to see anyone, or for anyone to see me. Still, I don't have a choice. I go towards the door timidly. Just as I'm about to open it, a girl enters and pokes her head in. She's very young and pretty and trim, and even more terrifyingly, she looks very reserved and quiet. She sees me, and I retreat into one of the showers, because I don't know what else to do. I stand there in the shower feeling quite foolish. She's gone, and I wonder if the coast is clear, can I go to the bathroom yet. I look through the glass of the door, don't see the girl, so I make a run for the bathroom. Now I have another problem. These cute little shorts are still tight, and now they're wet. They're amazingly hard to peel off. As I'm doing so, I suddenly realize that I'm not just my thoughts and an inner voice speaking its monologue....I have a body, and the body is attached to me. How awkward and unfortunate. Now, I'm still all wet. The toilet....what if I get it wet? (mental picture of some hapless person, like that young girl, sitting down on a soppping wet toilet seat). I spy the toilet seat covers. Yeah, these are especially useful at a time like this, thinks I. My very wet fingers tear the cover at first, but at last I coax it out of the dispenser, mostly intact, and spread it carefully over the seat. Now I can sit down, and I do so. Upon arising, there's a problem. The seat cover has adhered itself to my buns. A panic begins to form as I try to peel it off. It disintegrates into small, wet pieces of paper. What if I have to come out of the restroom covered in bits of white paper stuck to my body? Eeek! This is bad, bad, bad news. I pick at all the paper until it seems that I've divested myself of most of it. The seat is covered in splodges of wet paper, too. Damn. I get some fresh toilet paper and clean off the seat carefully. It's quite a relief when the toilet washes all that hateful paper down its throat. Now: the shorts. I eye them distrustfully. Well, OK, let's give it a go. I put my feet through the holes and maneuver the garment just past my knees. At that point, it begins to stick and roll up...there is just no way in heck that I'll be able to get them back on, but I try anyway. What will I do? Seem here's the thing. Unlike my normal aspie self, I have forced myself to shave under my arms, and the entirety of my legs. But we all have limits, and going around with an itchy, bristly crotch is one of mine. I haven't shaved there, and I don't especially intend to. Without the shorts, though, that hair will show. How will I get out of the bathroom? Someone might see me. I finally settle for holding the damp shorts in front of me, peekign aroudn corners, and, seeing noone, getting back into the pool quickly. I fling the impractical, teenage-girl-intended shorts off into the corner where my towel is, and reflect that the towel will give me a convenient escape route back out of the pool. I can just wrap it around my waist.

More soaking, ahh......Then the young, perfect body girl comes back in. I don't loook at her. She has on a bikini and a perfectly flat stomach. Good thing the jets are on. My body's under the water, this body that I'm tied to. I don't talk to her because frankly, not only do I not know what to say, but for soem reason, I am petrified of this girl. She leaves soon, and I realize what teh problem is: this nice, new job has given me enough days off in a row that I feel like myself again, for the first time in months. I'm not dead inside, I'm still here. But it's a tradeoff, see....because the more I feel like myself, the more my social skills go down the drain. Left to myself, I probably could easily become agoraphobic, and I know this. It's part of why I do work instead of getting on disability. If I work almost every day, like I did at the store, where I rarely got two days off in a row, I both develop and maintain the social skills. But then we see the tradeoff agian, because I become an automaton, I've got no passion, I don't feel like myself, I'm lost, no sense of being centered.

I can have me or I can have the social skills. Having both is just a really fine line.